A veteran carries a P.O.W. flag during the Lincoln Veterans Parade on Nov. 7, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It’s not every day that a mother and son get to share their patriotism not only through their service to their country, but in a parade. For two local veterans, they get the opportunity to gather veterans across the state for an afternoon honoring our country’s heroes.

For 83 years, Nov. 11 has been a national holiday of observance for all American veterans. This year, the Lincoln Veterans Parade took place on Nov. 7 around the State Capitol to commemorate local veterans.

In April 2018, Antonio Marino, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, took charge as the parade commander of the newly formed parade committee.

“I knew this was going to be a great event that would go on for years, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Antonio said.

Antonio enlisted in the Marines after graduating from Lincoln Northeast High School, and he worked his way up to the rank of corporal. After ending his four-year term in 2003, he continued to be involved with the Nebraska Marine Corps League and worked as a marketing and operations manager at his dad’s business.

Antonio asked his mother Sandy, who served in the Navy, to help as well, and she gladly accepted. This year, Sandy oversaw the volunteers.

“I’m really happy to do it because I like to get the attention out where it’s deserved for veterans like that,” Sandy said.

Sandy said she served in the U.S. Navy from 1976 to 1996 as a storekeeper.

During her service, Sandy said she moved around the world, including Italy twice, Hawaii and Florida. Sandy ended her service at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 parade was cancelled. Sandy said these parades have become important for the community to help citizens understand and see the pride veterans have in addition to showing support for veterans.

“It always feels good for us to walk in the parade to see the people clapping and waving the flags and being patriotic. Everybody’s together, no one’s fighting and all that,” Sandy said. “I think it’s a way of getting the city together and the people together.”

Sandy said she loves getting to meet new people and every year seems to be filled with different volunteers.

“I would like to be able to get more volunteers interested throughout the year instead of just for the one day,” Sandy said. “There’s so much we could do if we had more people involved throughout the year to plan it.”

This year, Antonio said the parade committee consisted of five veterans and two civilians. In addition, the majority of the parade participants were veteran service organizations or had veterans walking with them.

Unlike some of the veterans in attendance on Sunday, Sandy never personally saw any of the combat. She said when she joined the military, her service felt like more of a job because women weren’t allowed to go into combat.

However, Sandy said it’s really hard to hear some of the stories from veterans, especially those who served in the Vietnam War and during World War II.

“Their children really don’t even know what they went through because they don’t want to talk about it, because it was so horrible for them,” Sandy said.

Through Sandy’s volunteering and this parade, she hopes to spread awareness about veterans who come home and aren’t provided for or given the resources to heal.

“It’s a disservice to them,” Sandy said. “Some of them are homeless. You have homeless all over, but veterans should have a higher priority because they served, they killed for America, for the people of America.”

Antonio said that for a long time, Veterans Day was just a day for discounts and hearing thankful comments for those who served. 

“Since starting the parade, I have focused on checking in with my fellow vets and educating others on the significance,” Antonio said.

Sandy said she hopes if people attend parades like this one, or any other kind of military presentation, then maybe people will be inspired to talk to veterans who served and learn about what they had to go through and the sacrifices they made.

“It just seems that people need to know how much the veterans have suffered,” Sandy said. “The traumas and stuff that they went through when they were in and how they don’t want to talk about it because they’re still working things out.”

Within her own family, she said it was hard moving every three years, and having constant distance from family members. Antonio said that it became normal for him, and his parents allowed him more freedom living on the base.

“My sister and I learned to make friends quickly. The hardest part was saying goodbye to them,” Antonio said.

She encouraged people when they see someone wearing a ball cap with their military branch, ship or the war they fought in, to say something. 

“That acknowledges that person and what they had to sacrifice. A lot of them didn’t see their kids grow up. Even now, you have men and women on ships and they don’t see their children. They come in and their children are older. They missed the birth and all that,” Sandy said. “Most people don’t understand the life events that they feel are so important, that the military member that’s currently serving miss out on and what their spouse has to go through, too, when the military person is gone.”